Friday, August 29, 2014

Our Day In Pictures 8/29/14

There were just too many precious pictures to not share. So, here was our day in pictures.





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Discovering New Things

Yes, it has literally been almost half a year since I posted last. I almost had a blog post up a couple of days ago and that night, my laptop got a virus and I had to get a new one. =/

Summer is coming to a close. The Hubs just started school and September is about to get crazy!! So much planned!

As a photographer, it is ridiculously easy to get burnt out. I have taken so many camera phone pictures this summer just because it feels like my big camera is for business only! I haven't really done any shots for myself recently. This is so important. Especially since there is only benefits to doing so. I get wonderful keepsake pictures and I find the joy in photography once again.

I have been wanting to do a creek session since I first saw the idea. A tiny little boy, in suspenders wading through the water. Just the pure bliss of picturing it in my head brings a calm warmth over me. Moving here just over a year ago, I set out to find some good shooting locations near us. Someone suggested McCloud Nature Park.

It was PERFECT from other photographers pictures! I had found a cute pair of capris with suspenders from H&M. I went online to order, and they were sold out! =[ I said, ehh who needs a styled shoot anyways. So Liam & I packed up and headed out for the 35 minute journey.

I am a complete city girl, but growing up on the outskirts, being outside in the fresh country air just instantly calms me. I can get so impatient, irritated, and exhausted just driving to Walmart sometimes. As soon as we hit those cornfields and blue skies, I was in the most surreal heaven available to me on Earth.

I guess I didn't exactly get 'nature park'. We pulled up and I was pleasantly surprised by how big HUGE it was. I set off to find the creek. It was pretty easy to find. As soon as Liam saw it, he wanted to go right in! I swear, he probably could have stayed there for hours!
We got out and I decided to explore the rest. We headed back to the car and put on some dry clothes. Liam grabbed himself a snack-as usual.

I have heard about this amazing bridge there for months! I decided to go look for it. Liam and I set off for our nature trek. He was seriously astonished! He kept saying "flowers", picking up rocks, and just gazing up at the swaying trees. He loved the bridge and looking at the "wah wah". Unknowingly, we were hiking on the trails for about an hour and a half when I realized what time it was.

Before we left, we stopped in to explore the Nature Center. It was pretty neat, but probably more for school age kids. Although they did have cute little stuffed creatures Liam liked playing with, along with puzzles and books.

Half way home, I finally regained cell signal and saw that Kyle had called and was home early. I swung by the house to pick him up, and we went to grab lunch. Since I was feeling "small-townish", we decided to try out this place we had seen a couple of times. It's a 50's Diner. It was pretty cool. Nothing 'knock your socks off', but I would go again!

I had meant to stop by an ice cream shop I saw on the way to the nature park, but had accidentally passed it. We grabbed a McDonalds cone after lunch instead. Liam (& Trixie) loved the cones.
Then of course, everyone had to get sprayed down.

Then it was time for a shower.

Some play time.
& a cheesy knock-off movie on Netflix.

I am so very thankful and blessed. I have jobs that allow me to stay home 5-6 days a week with my son. I have a working vehicle that allows me to explore new places. I have the privilege of living in a wonderful city that allows me room to evolve. I have my health that allows me to walk hand-in-hand with my toddler. Most importantly, I have many beautiful creations just given to me by God to bask in. I'm over-whelmed and ridiculously humbled. Happy Friday Frugal Friends. <3

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Home Schooling FAQ

A lot has been on my mind/heart lately. With Liam being 2 now, school is quickly approaching for the little guy. When we moved here in 2013, a lot of it had to do with the school system, for both academics and athletics, as well as the family community. We will outgrow this house in about 5 years and while we may move to Southern Indianapolis (mostly because there is more to do), we will still search for a good school system.

To Hubby & I, education is the absolute most important thing we want to instill in Liam. (Other than making him an outstanding member of society.) It's been evident since Liam was a small baby that he has been behind developmentally. He goes at his own pace, which is frequent, but still slower than most children. We first thought he may have autism. That was ruled out within a couple of months. Now that he is a toddler, we are seeing more and more signs that he may have ADHD. It's really hard to tell since most of the characteristics are those of a toddler and someone with ADHD are extremely similar. Some things stick out though. However, some things may be more personality and some may be more geared towards that. I DO NOT want to be that parent that assumes since a child acts out that he has ADHD or since he is hyper active that he has it either, but I just want to make sure I can help him in the most natural ways so give him the best start and future possible. I do not want him on medication at any point. I'd rather embrace who he is, even though he is not seen like everyone else or to everyone's standards.

Before I answer some Q&A's, I just want to be sure to mention, I am a HUGE fan of the public education system. I think it is wonderful, but it is not for everyone!

Why are you considering home school?
-There are about a hundred reasons why I have considered it. Whether Liam has any type of behavioral or developmental disorder or delay, I want to see him strive. I was working my way to being an elementary teacher. I was in class with current educators and heard things that made my heart hurt. Here are my top five reasons:

  1. If I'm going to be an educator, why not educate my own children! I feel like as a mom, It is my job to raise him to be exactly who he is and the type of person I believe will make him the best he can be. If he's gone for 7-8 hours a day, my mere two or three will not be as great of an impact. 
  2. Pubic schools have higher teacher:student ratios. Public schools are cutting teachers and other faculty very quickly. Budgets are being cut, and the number of students is increasing per teacher. When I student taught, there was 30 children in one kindergarten class, 3 of them had some type of special need. There was the teacher, me, and an instructional assistant. Between all that, it was hard to balance helping the children who weren't getting and making sure everyone was on task and utilizing time wisely. Now imagine if there was just the one teacher (which it is most of the day!) Then think about all the little things that can fill up your day. Breakfast (this school required it), lunch, recess, bathroom breaks, unexpected events (a student got sick in the classroom), and all the transitions between activities. Now try to do all the school work needed to comply with state standards in that short time each day. 
  3. Working at your own pace. As I said, Liam has been behind developmentally since he was born 5 weeks early. Teachers have to move at a quick pace to get everything done in one day. That leaves no room for a student who is too far ahead or too far behind. I also think about how I was ahead in kindergarten. I would have to sit in a desk by myself learning things that the other kids weren't ready for. I will be able to work with my children's pace. If they get it, move on, if not, I have time to work through it.
  4. Setting my own schedule. What if its a snow day for public school? Home schoolers won't have to make up extra days! What if it's just one of those crazy days? We can take a break whenever! Family vacation during off peak? No problem! See where I'm going here? Most home schoolers don't have summer break, which is why most graduate 2-3 years sooner than most public school children.
  5. Spending time with my kids. Some people are going to probably roll their eyes at this one. However, I always found it odd that parents were all about staying home with their kids, then as soon as their school age, it's "see ya in 8 hours!" If Liam goes to school from 8-3 and I work from 9-5, and he goes to bed between 7-9, that leaves a mere 4-5 hours a day, tops. Now, add in the time it takes to get to or from home/school, plus making dinner, any after school activities, homework, etc. How much does that leave? NOT MUCH! I'd much rather be the person they spend a majority of their day with and help them to be the best they can be in the process!

What type of home school will you be doing?
-We plan to do secular homeschooling. The program/curriculum we will use is Evangelical Christian based, but we will skip the Bible portion, and once he gets to more serious subjects (evolution vs creationism) we will choose more secular resources for that. We are Christians, but we also want to prepare him for things he will need for college. We feel like he should know everything, as opposed to just one viewpoint. We hope he will want to participate in youth group and other church activities, but we also want him to form his own beliefs and opinions.

He'll be weird...
-Honestly, this was my take on home schooled children as well. I knew several that were home schooled and then moved into public schools in high school. However, the ones I knew were home schooled non-secular. Basically, they were "weird" because they didn't know about the latest movies, music, fashion trends, etc. A majority also did not partake in most things teens do such as drinking, sex, drugs, etc. Therefore, they were not part of the "social norm" and were deemed weird. They were sheltered. I do not plan on sheltering him what so ever. He will have restrictions, just like he would if he went to public school.  My husband and I did some very inappropriate things in high school, during school hours, and if he's at home that will be avoided. Not things he can learn and grow from, but things that he has no business doing, and with correct supervision can be avoided.

He won't have any friends...
Home schooling is not what it used to be. Living in the city, I have already found a ton of home school social groups. He will also do activities, ones that he chooses, but at least activities outside the home. They also now have online programs where home schooled children can participate in after-school activities and even sports! Also, most home schooled children are able to interact with adults and children of all ages better than those that attend school with children their own age. If you have ever met Liam, you know there is no way he can not be social!

I am very excited to be starting this journey with my family. As with anything, there will be those that disagree or even poke fun at our choice. As I said, I was the same way before I educated myself on homeschooling. More and more secular home schoolers are popping up! I am actually a minority, in a small minority (think about that for a second).  We believe this will greatly benefit our child, as well as our family. My thing is, if you can do it, do it! I will also be homeschooling for two years before he is actually required to go to school, so I can always send him to public school if I need to!

Just thought I'd answer a few questions I've received and mention comments I've been hearing. I am in not way saying there is anything wrong with parents that choose or have to send their children to public schools! I just feel, for my son, this is the best way he can learn and grow! Happy day frugal friends!

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Friday, April 25, 2014

One of those days...

While I should be editing my latest sessions or even blogging about our recent bathroom remodel for under $100, I can't help but feel a rush of emotions lately.

April 2014. I was sure I would be holding a precious baby by April 2014.

It was July. Liam was 16 months old. We had been in our new home almost a month. Kyle & I had been getting closer to trying for baby #2. After all, Liam was created about 3 weeks into our first home. It seemed so similar in the best and worst ways. I remembered back to what it felt like to be pregnant. The financial, emotional, and physical stress of creating a life within me. I remember wanting a baby, but being too scared to actually try for one, then boom, before I knew it, my life changed with one dollar store test on July 29, 2011. Now it was July again, two years later. It took barely a month the first time. "It will probably take a few months, tops." I carelessly thought.

After months and months of charting, irregular cycles, and financial strain, I started to give up. This must be God telling me to wait. So I quit trying so hard..somewhat. I couldn't help but check my Fertility Friend App with the hopes our recent endeavor had resulted in a precious miracle. Pregnancy test after pregnancy test; cycle after cycle; nothing. My heart couldn't take it.

In these past 9 months of trying, I've grown closer to God, and then fell through the cracks again, confused and angry why He wouldn't give me a baby. Wasn't I worthy? Am I not a good mom? Feeding Liam healthy, always being a car seat Nazi, reading article after article about how to parent, and always giving that strawberry blonde head a kiss every night before I went to sleep. What was I doing wrong?

The more rooms we redecorate, the more real it becomes we're not working on a nursery. Liam is growing and needing less and less of essentials in the baby aisle at stores. I can't help but be envious of the moms who dread having to stop by that aisle for just about everything during their weekly outings.

I can only think about all the things I would do differently this time. All the things I would do better.

I know I seem selfish to some. To those who can't have a child naturally, who have lost a child, or people who may never get the chance to be a parent. I have a precious, smiley two-year-old who brightens up my day, everyday.

Infertility and loss affects you in more ways than you can ever imagine. It affects your mental, emotional, and physical health. It affects your relationship with your spouse. It also affects your relationships with others.

I can't tell you how many times in these past 9 months I have felt jealous or even angry that others were getting pregnant carelessly or easily, how I once had.

I'd like to tell you I'm at the point where I have come to terms with what my future holds, baby or not. I'm not there yet. I'm not sure I ever will be. It took my mom 7 years to have me, and 10 years for my sister to have my nephew. Even if I stop "trying", the older Liam and I get, I feel like I will always hold out hope.

I know most people try for years and years, and its only been 9 months for us, but most of the moms who were trying around the time we started are giving birth now or soon, and it reminds me....I thought I'd have a precious baby in my arms by April 2014.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Liam's 2nd Birthday Party

Ah yes, its been almost two weeks since our little Peanut boy has turned 2, and as always, I am just now getting to blogging about it! 

Very excited about his Dr kit
This year, I was less stressed about throwing his party. I had done it before and was determined to spend half of what I did last year. (which was WAY too much). That also included Peanut's gifts. As most of you know, we view Christmas as a holiday about Jesus and not just about gifts. So he only gets a few small things. He also doesn't get much throughout the year. Let's be honest..he still has some unopened gifts from his birthday last year. However; his birthday, is all about him! That doesn't mean we have to break the bank though! The ladies at church and his babysitter were telling us how much he loved playing with the kitchens. So, we made that our goal to get him that as his "big" gift. We also found a couple of other small things he had really wanted or we knew he would like. The search began. I found several items online, but $50 for a kitchen wasn't doing it for me. 

I had looked everywhere. My last hope. A Once Upon a Child about 25 minutes away. I went in, and there she was. It was in great condition. I looked at the price tag. I looked again. And was $8.50. I've never grabbed anything up so fast in my life! On my way to the register, I saw some DVDs. I am always looking for Mickey DVDs for the little guy. There was one for $6.50. Not bottom dollar, but better than a $15 price tag for a new one. At our local Once Upon a Child, I found a Mickey set. I had found one at Walmart he was always eyeing that was around $20. This one had a ton more included and retailed for $60. I got it for $20. The best part..everything was unopened! The only thing we paid for new was the Dr. kit and lambie. He LOVES Doc McStuffins. When I got the lambie for the little girl I babysit, he was always stealing it and upset when she took it home, so I got him one. He loves using his dr kit, and even helped his dr. at his appointment. She got a kick out of him knowing what everything was for! Kyle grabbed some balloons from dollar tree for him to wake up to. He LOVED them. (the simple things in life). He also got to pick out some PJs from walmart. They were $6 and he rarely gets clothes that aren't used, so its nice to do sometimes. (& yes, we all wear used clothing, not just him!)

He also had some birthday waffles with sprinkles!! 

As many of you know, I enjoy am obsessed with party planning. At the risk of sounding like a psycho, I have already started planning next years.....anywho.. with every birthday, we make an effort to do something as a family for his birthday, and then have his party that weekend. This year, his birthday was on a Friday, so we held his party the next day.

For his birthday, we headed to the aquarium. He was about 4 hours from being 2 technically, so I wasn't lying when he still got in for free... =/ We also stopped by Jungle Jims. It is pretty neat, and got a great deal on organic bananas ;] We also went to Cici's for lunch. All you can eat pizza for about $15, and Peanut ate for free. 

Yes, he basically kissed everything at the aquarium (well, the glass mostly...)
Now to his party..the big reveal! Liam has loved Mickey since he was about 2 months old. It also helps his mom loves is obsessed with Disney. Although Mickey parties are a bit overdone, I knew he would like it, and also knew it would be fun to put together. Here are his invitations. I made them myself using photoshop and also had a pre-party photo shoot with him. I had a few different pieces I found on etsy for inspiration (1) (2).

I basically did a mirror image for the thank you cards and used a different picture from our shoot. I used word play to make it its own.

Now, if you remember last year's party..the Toy Story party I spent way too much money on...I pretty much tried to buy everything in colors only, the cheapest route, or DIY. I think the party turned out pretty great!

Here's the thing with the balloons. I think they really add something to the party, but last year spent WAY too much. This year, I contemplated buying a helium tank and buying my own balloons vs ordering some from party city. The big Mickey comes from this set. Its $16 and the helium is included. I actually picked them up the night before the party, and they were still going strong 3 days post party, and I ended up popping them since the cat wouldn't leave them alone. The happy birthday balloon and the small Mickey are from the Dollar Tree (the ones we got for him to wake up to). Yes, that does mean they were just a $1 each! Helium and ribbon included! The balloons on the highchair were from a pack of about 25 balloons I found at the dollar tree. All in all, I spent a little less than $20. That's how much the helium tank was alone!

Bless my sweet hubby who iced the cupcakes. Not too impressive, but he sure is helpful!
I REALLY wanted a cupcake stand, but I didn't want to pay $8 for something that I was only going to use this once. If I had bought a neutral one, my attempt at saving it would have ended up in me getting it out next year only to find it trashed. So I found this awesome tutorial! It involves cardboard, hot glue, and soup cans! I also got the cupcake toppers from here and just edited where it said "Celebrate" to "Liam" and "Is 2". The sad part was, they didn't really fit with the topper and being on the stand, so I made a ton and didn't even use half! I printed them out, cut them, and hot glued them to a cut Popsicle stick. The "2" Candles were from the dollar tree.

I found the cupcake liners in the party colors at walmart. I got 75 for $1.50. I used the extras to hold our goldfish. I worried a box or two of goldfish wouldn't be enough, so I bought a big box at Sam's Club for about $9. Guess what? I still have two huge bags of goldfish to go through now... =/ 

You have probably seen this idea floating around pinterest. I couldn't justify spending $20 or more on a veggie tray to feed everyone, especially since people usually only eat the celery and carrots. I got the clear cups at Dollar Tree. They come in 10 packs. I price matched the ranch dip for $1, the organic baby carrots for $1 a bag, and the celery was around $1.10 I believe. I got 3 of each. I had a ton of carrots left. Everyone loved this idea! & It saved me a ton of money on veggies!

Something else I didn't get a picture of, was the watermelon bites =[ I have a Mickey cookie cuter I got online awhile ago for about $0.75. I sliced the watermelon and used the cookie cutter to make Mickey shaped watermelon bites. They were a big hit, but I had them in the fridge when I was taking pictures =/

I had found the idea for "Minnie's Bowtie Pasta". The problem was, I had never really made Italian pasta salad that didn't come out of a box. My late brother-in-law used to make the best pasta salad for holidays and events. Since he passed, my sister has been making it. She was nice enough to pass it to me for the party, but it's a bit of a secret, so I'm not going to share. You can google a lot of different ones though. This one was a big hit!

I price matched the chips for $2 a bag. We just had original wavy and BBQ. I also price matched the dip for $1. I got the little cups at Dollar Tree. (Are you seeing a theme here??) Again, everyone enjoyed just grabbing and rolling right along. 

The cups were from the dollar tree, just regular cups that happened to go along with the color theme. I got the Hugs juices from Sam's club. Again, bought way too much and have a ton in my fridge. I spent about $8. Could have gotten away with a pack of juice boxes. (oh well, at least its yummy). I also made the water bottle labels and hot glued them around the bottles. We also had a variety of soda. I bought about 6 bottles and price matched them for $1 each!

What's a Mickey party without hot dogs? I price matched the hot dogs for $0.99 and the buns for $0.89. I got about 9 of each so that everyone could have about 1.5. I took a large pot and put about two packages in at a time to cook them. Then, I put them in the crock-pot on warm and they were delicious! I had a couple packs left over. I also served them with relish, mustard, and ketchup. I just used my own condiments from home and still have plenty left. We also put them in a muffin tin for easy serving, but I forgot to take a picture. 

I got the large dinner plates from dollar tree. There were 16 in a pack I believe. I also got small yellow dessert plates, and these red polka dot napkins from dollar general. They also came in packs of 16. The utensils were from dollar tree. I got 3 different packs (red, yellow, and black). They had forks, knives, and spoons, with 48 in each pack. I didn't use a great deal of these and will be using them for our next party!

If you remember from last year, I used this same holder for our utensils. It is an old formula canister I washed out and plan to use it for every party. I made the wrap on photoshop, and honestly just hot glued it on top of the Toy Story one from last year.

As I did last year, I used this table as my main table. It's in the back or the room, but its really the first thing you see. This year, it had Mickey toys on display, as well as a book for everyone to sign (last year we did a time capsule), and pictures of Liam from his 2nd birthday shoot. Remember that balloon bouquet from party city? Those are the other pieces of it. I also saved a few dollars by just having them clip the balloons and bought my balloon weights at dollar tree and tied them myself. 

Here is what we did as a "guestbook" for this party. I got the idea from here. I found this book at our local Once Upon a Child for about $3. It just so happened to be Mickey Clubhouse theme which is what the party was instead of just a random Mickey book. Friends and family loved writing on the pages and now when we look at the book there are all kinds of wonderful memories and thoughtful messages for him!

I will just be honest. Last year I spent way too much on goody bags that I forgot to pass out. Not to mention, most of the stuff was not age-appropriate and even a tad dangerous. This year, I bought these red bags from dollar tree. They came with 10 in a pack. Then I bought Mickey crayons, also from dollar tree, which came 3 in a pack. I printed off coloring pages and included those in there. I found suckers on clearance from dollar general which went in. I think a huge bag was like $2. Then, at Babies R Us, I found organic puffs. They had about 6 in a pack, and the bags are HUGE! Each bag was $2.50. I think I included one more Mickey item from dollar tree in there, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was.. Nothing fancy. & Since most of them are still too little for games, I passed them out so they could color and not just be sitting around. 

I got this banner from here. Again, I just photoshopped it into saying "Happy Birthday Liam" instead of "celebrate". I hole punched each corner and used left over ribbon to string it together. This is obviously before guests arrived because believe me, he got a ton of gifts! (spoiled boy). The banner is much bigger than it looks and was a huge element to the party.

Here are my lovely helpers ;] If you can see, I got 6 tables cloths, two of each (red, yellow, and black). They were guessed it, Dollar Tree! I placed the "Thank You" cards at each chair for the guests to look at and take with them afterwards. 

Here is the sign that was on the door to greet guests as they entered. Just something cute I made in photoshop and taped to the door. 

Here are the centerpieces. I took pictures while I made them. They are super cute, easy, and CHEAP! All you need is tissue paper, toilet paper, and ribbon. I also made the Mickey heads that went in them. I will have a post on the details soon. At each centerpiece was a couple of Mickey related toys. Some figures, some stuffed toys. Again, utilizing what we already had!

Here is the birthday boy chowing down. As he does at home, he really just took his time, soaked in the attention, and half of the food went in the trash. At least he looks cute doing it...

Here he is enjoying some cake...

Ugh...please ignore hubby and kid look cute though...
My hubby and I wore our shirts we got from Disney World. Liam's was custom ordered from this lovely shop. My Minnie Ears and his Mickey Ears (which served as his party hat) were from Disney World as well.

I, again this year, made a slideshow using Windows Movie Maker. Just pictures of him from this year, set to his favorite songs and songs that reminded us of him this year. It played on the TV behind us as background noise mostly throughout the party. 

So, here's a breakdown of the party.
Food & Cupcakes: $50
Rental Building: $100
Custom Shirt: $23
Printing of Decor, Invites, and Thank you Cards: $25
Party Supplies (Cups, plates, goodie bags etc): $30-40
around $230. 
Yes, that is still a bit high, but thats more than $100 less than I spent last year! That darn rental fee is what kills it! Don't you worry my frugal friends, next year, the party will be in our 1100 square foot home! ;]

So there you have hit! Having a hip DIY Mickey Party! Thanks for reading & feel free to share!

Liam's 1st Birthday Party